My company TMC was fortunate enough to have been building proprietary content-targeting technology enabling us to create news-generated communities for our customers back before the dotcom bubble burst and as such over the past decade we have seen a tremendous amount of our revenue shift from print magazines to the over 130 communities (channels, GOCS) we have built for our monthly sponsors.
Well over a decade ago we had a newsletter subscription list which received over 50 registrants per day. We decided that we needed more information from our readers and as such we decided that just asking for an email address wasn't enough - we needed demographic information so we could more accurately target promotional offers to our audience.
Big mistake - the subscription rate fell immediately to a few per day. Ouch! And this was perhaps 13 years ago or so when people didn't mind giving their information out.
It was at this point I realized that any friction added to the process of adding subscribers will grind your subscription machine to a halt - let alone charging for content.
The notable exceptions and I will name names are the Wall Street Journal and Financial Times as these publications provide information which can alter the course of your business and/or investments - people will always be able to justify paying for information which helps them make money.
With this in mind I downloaded and used the Wired app on the iPad recently and although it is truly incredible, I am torn as to whether this is the future of media. I believe free content wins out but if you had to say what is worth paying for, perhaps it is something very close to what the folks at Wired recently released.
What I really like about this new and novel magazine app is all the fun user interface goodies such as ads which are interactive allowing you to see varying content of interest simply by running your finger over a page. (See the pictures at the end.) I also love the ability to see graphics come to life and the interactive Lamborghini built with LEGOS becomes a visual treat you can control, allowing the user to pretend they are putting this work of art together themselves.
Moreover, the ads can have embedded video which are more like a commercial you would see on TV. The articles too can have video attached - allowing you to read about a topic and at the end, see a video of how it looks.
An early challenge of this app is that I am unsure how I will organize these issues on my iPad desktop. Does each issue have its own icon for example? Can you imagine how cluttered things will get if this is the case? Hopefully Apple will address this issue in its next major OS update.
Moreover the UI takes some getting used to. It isn't a terrible challenge but it isn't immediately clear to me which articles have content below what I am reading as opposed to being a single page with more content to the right. I did notice after a while that clicking on the icon in the top right corner gives you an overview of page layout in icon form... This feature is quite useful and solves this challenge.
One thing that is quite annoying and worth pointing out is that there are a few web links in the publication. In fact this is also a problem with PDFs in general on the iPad - the links are missing. But with the Wired issue, the few web links which I clicked on opened Safari and when I was done looking at the linked content I had to find the Wired app again using search. There has to be a better way and this is likely one of the reasons people like Fred Wilson prefer Safari to standalone iPad apps.
If you are a Wired fan (I have tried to be but could never appreciate this magazine or understand its appeal - believe me I've tried) the digital edition is likely worth twice as much as the single-copy price. Yes, that's $10 per copy. My sense is that others agree since just under 24,000 issues of the publication/application were downloaded in 24 hours. Then again there is a novelty factor at the moment which could wear thin after a few months. And then there is my long-term thesis on most content inevitably becoming free. I have to admit I am a bit torn at the moment.
I really think this program is cleverly designed and hats off to the folks at Conde Nast for doing such a great job with their first electronic issue on the iPad. I am still not convinced this is the future of magazines but it certainly points the market in a new and exciting direction.
How the Wired iPad app works.
An interactive ad where each number represents different text and in this case spice.
The famous Mars interactive map which took a month to build.
An ad which you can click on to get to the web page. One of the few.
An article with a video link embedded.
For some reason you can translate the comic between languages.
My favorite is the LEGO Lamborghini - what could be cooler?
Click on a TV and see the copy change.
This is the winner of the most confusing ad - I clicked on everything and nothing worked. This is an obvious case of an ad agency missing the point.